Friday, August 21, 2009
The Green Table
One of the major reasons I wanted to go on the road trip was the chance to see Mesa Verde. Anybody interested in history in Colorado has heard of the Anasazi ruins and the great Cliff Palace they created. My father and I had actually tried the trip before, but had barely made it past the small town of Baily before we had to turn back due to car issues. I've been waiting years for my chance to return.
The first thing that struck me as I drove up the side of the Mesa was just how large Mesa Verde truely is. The Mesa is huge, and you can see how the early Spanish explorers who named it could have missed finding the cliff dwellings.
This is actually a panorama of 5 vertically oriented frames
While there are over 600 cliff dwellings in the park, I made a bee-line for the Cliff Palace overlook for the chance to explore the largest and most famous of the structures. Imagine my dismay when I got there and found out that in order to go down to the Cliff Palace, you had to have a ticket for one of the ranger led tours. I hadn't bought one, so we made a quick drive back to the Visitors Center to see what time slots were still available.
The earliest time that could accomodate us was 4:30, so we had a few hours to kill, and decided to take in the views at the Spruce Tree House, which is a smaller but better preserved cliff dwelling on the opposite side of the Mesa. After our quick walk by the house, we decided to take the 2.2 mile "strenuous" hike to view petroglyphs along the canyon wall.
Well considering the National Park Status and the hordes of Californians and Europeans, we figured that 'strenuous' meant 'if you are from Colorado, you MIGHT break a sweat.' Well, I think I shattered the sweat, but the views from the canyon walls and top were totally worth the trek. The petroglyphs were fascinating, and even better was the fact that a trio of girls from a nearby camp were there too, one of whom was an archeology major who could interpret the symbols for us!
After the hike we swung through the museum, but it was a quick pass as the many Californians and French that had avoided the strenuous trail were in the air conditioned museum instead. I drank a ton of water to avoid dehydration in the dry southern Colorado air, then it was off to the crown Jewell of Mesa Verde...